Several years ago, a family of new owners planted their spatulas at Cheng's Chinese. They're from Fujian, China, a province known not only for its oolong tea but also for its diverse array of fresh fish. Perhaps this familiarity with seafood is why one of the most popular menu items is the lunch buffet's fried shrimp, which careens through a blizzard of rice flour before it briefly hurtles into a hot pan. Chefs also wrap egg rolls, simmer soups from scratch, and make their own dumplings and wontons.
While every dish at ChopStix can be eaten with traditional chop sticks, it isn?t a requirement. The experience is more focused on the flavors in the dishes, from teriyaki-glazed salmon to eggplant in spicy garlic sauce. Chefs tuck veggies and pork into bowls of fried rice and lo mein noodles, and a number of Chefs? Special dishes whip tongues with chili sauce or Hunan-style spices. The chefs also delicately slice strips of salmon, tuna, and eel to make sushi rolls.
For the cooks at Lila's Seafood & Steaks, no imitation seafood can ever compare to the real thing. That's why they never rely on imitation crabmeat; instead, they sell real snow crab legs by the pound and stuff mushrooms with actual blue crab and crab stuffing. Crab only skims the surface of Lila's selection, which ranges from conch fried into fritters to mussels coated in housemade seasoned butter.
Equally choosy about beef as they are about seafood, the cooks shape certified Angus cuts into half-pound burgers and 16-ounce T-bone steaks. To end feasts on a sweet note, the culinary team creates several housemade desserts, including peanut-butter pie, a more satisfying dish than peanut-butter cups that you pretend are tiny pies.
From its majestic outpost, with views of the Intracoastal Waterway, marsh and marina, Jacksonville Beach’s Marker 32 sports a bay of glass windows, white table linens and light teak colored dining tables. The truly elegant eatery has two stories, with the second serving as a perfect place to take in a sunset dinner. Fresh local ingredients, prepared daily from scratch, make up the majority of the menu, including a cast iron-seared beef tenderloin, shrimp and Andouille fettuccine and pan roasted duck breast. This is upscale Florida dining at its best, with rich desserts and the sort of understated but elegant décor that makes Marker 32 perfect for date night.
The name Mitchell’s Fish Market may be a bit deceptive, given that the glitzy restaurant is actually an upscale seafood eatery that shimmers with bright lighting, cherry-red booths and a nautical theme. Moneyed diners tend to start with a unique cocktail from the bar, like the crushed blackberry agave margarita or the Jacksonville Cosmo, which mixes Smirnoff, Cointreau, white cranberry and simple syrup. The shrimp and wild sea scallop Americana with roasted red skin potatoes or lobster and shrimp-stuffed cod are just two of the many original entrées on offer, along with nightly specials, market catches and seafood-heavy starters like pan-roasted PEI mussels and charbroiled oysters. Mitchell’s Fish Market also has a nice selection of steaks for land-lovers, though the vibrant interior is best enjoyed over a plate of high-quality seafood.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House, located in the heart of Riverside inside the Crown Plaza Hotel, is the epitome of chophouse luxury. From its white linen tablecloths to its spectacular view of downtown Jacksonville and the Intracoastal River from the walled glass windows, the elegant tray ceilings, recessed amber lighting and deep brown leather booths speak to a style and class few restaurants possess. Whether you’re after a business dinner or a birthday, Ruth’s Chris won’t disappoint. Start with the signature Chop Salad, a julienne of iceberg lettuce, baby spinach and radicchio that’s tossed with red onions, mushrooms, green olives, bacon, eggs, bleu cheese and more. Signature steaks include the petite filet, ribeye or New York strip cooked to perfect doneness, while pescetarians can go for the Caribbean lobster tail or fish of the day.